About 100 South Berkeley residents gathered Saturday to discuss community demands for a plan to revitalize the area. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
About 100 South Berkeley residents gathered Saturday to discuss community demands for a plan to revitalize the area. Photo: Natalie Orenstein

About 100 neighbors gathered Saturday morning at the South Berkeley Community Church to work on a document outlining their hopes for the city’s revitalization of the Adeline Corridor.

It was the second meeting of Friends of Adeline, a community group created after the city was awarded a $750,000 planning grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission last year. At a public information session hosted by the city in January, many residents said they were concerned the project would threaten the diversity and history of the neighborhood.

With the encouragement of Councilman Max Anderson, neighbors convened for the first time in April to begin to draft a “manifesto” to present to the city and MIG, the Berkeley-based project consultant that will oversee the grant.

“We are a resident-led group here,” said Chris Schildt, who facilitated Saturday’s meeting with planning commissioner and Berkeley native Ben Bartlett. “I think it’s important to recognize that, while the city is creating this process for us, we need to make sure that we know, and as a collective voice can say, what neighbors want.”

“Since the 20s, this exact neighborhood has been the most diverse neighborhood in Berkeley,” said Bartlett, mentioning the history of immigrants and an early black labor union in South Berkeley.

Meeting attendees wrote summaries for five categories of community priorities they had determined in April: affordable housing, economic stability, health and safety, arts and culture, and transparency and accountability.

Adeline Corridor principal planner and project manager Alisa Shen also gave a brief presentation on the city’s timeline. The project is expected to take 24-30 months, with staff conducting initial research on existing conditions and demographics through the summer. Members of the public can learn more and give feedback at an “IDEA Center” at the Firehouse Art Collective at 3192 Adeline St. on Mondays from 3 to 7 p.m. and Thursdays from 11 to 3 p.m. Over 100 people have visited so far, Shen said. There is also an online survey, and upcoming weekend IDEA Centers from 2-4 p.m. at the Ashby flea market May 16, and at Berkeley Bowl on June 6.

Additional public events are in the works, including a workshop in August and a “pop-up event” with walking and bicycle tours of the neighborhood on Saturday, June 13, Shen said. More information is available on the project website.

MIG principal Mukul Malhotra also outlined engagement projects the firm is facilitating, including having youth residents interview their older neighbors and photograph the areas of the neighborhood they like and dislike.

“If you see young kids asking you questions, please answer them,” he said.

Attendees split off into sub-groups to come up with priorities to include in the group's document. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
Attendees split off into sub-groups to come up with priorities to include in the group’s document. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
Attendees split off into sub-groups to come up with priorities to include in the group’s document. Photo: Natalie Orenstein

Several of the meeting attendees were longtime residents of the area.

“I have witnessed it as being a cohesive community where we have vibrant businesses, neighborhoods, and neighbors working together to maintain a harmonious neighborhood,” said Richie Smith, who has lived in South Berkeley since 1949. She said she would like to see access to healthy food and recreational facilities for youth.

Meeting attendees broke into small groups to flesh out their five primary goals for the project, and reconvened to present them.

The housing group wanted the city to meet its affordable housing goals and foster more transparency around the Housing Trust Fund. A representative from the group, the largest of the five, said its members were concerned that new development will “change the character of the neighborhood.”

The economic stability group called for internships and services for youth, and for the city to keep the flea market in its current location at the Ashby BART station.

The health and safety group asked for a new park or public open space similar to the Ohlone Greenway by North Berkeley BART. Members also said police profiling in the neighborhood makes residents feel unsafe.

The arts and culture group suggested new public spaces for visual and performance art, including a community garden.

The group dedicated to transparency, accountability, and community, which Anderson worked with, said new development included in the Adeline plan should include an explicit community benefit agreement.

Councilman Max Anderson suggested neighbors form a group after several expressed concerns about the Adeline Corridor plan in January. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
Councilman Max Anderson. Photo: Natalie Orenstein

Anderson said he supports Friends of Adeline because he believes residents “felt very left out of the whole process” of the West Berkeley Plan and that the current discussion of community benefits in the Downtown Area Plan is an attempt to salvage a project that benefits developers.

“This effort that we’re engaged in now is an effort to make sure that the residents and the people who work and own businesses here in South Berkeley are the primary movers of what the city determines in its final plan,” Anderson said. He said it is too early in the community process to determine the group’s central demands.

“This is something that should happen all over the city,” he said.

In later phases, the city will solicit public feedback between drafts of the plan, which will eventually need to be adopted by the planning commission and council, Shen said.

Friends of Adeline was created in response to the MTC grant, but Bartlett said the group will likely be involved in other community issues. Members at the meeting brought up other neighborhood news, including the recent renaming of the South Berkeley library and an effort to make the Marmot Mountain Works building a landmark.

The “Adeline Corridor” area refers to the Lorin District; the Berkeley Bowl, Walgreens and Any Mountain shopping area; the Ed Roberts Campus and parking lot; the Ashby BART station and parking lot; and the intersections of Ashby and Alcatraz avenues with Adeline. The area covered by the grant also includes the South Shattuck auto dealership cluster, the approved 155-unit mixed-use development project called Parker Place, and the Sports Basement store in the former Berkeley Iceland skating rink, according to a prior statement.

The community group can be contacted via email at FriendsOfAdeline@gmail.com. Questions about the city’s efforts with the Adeline Corridor effort can be directed to project manager Alisa Shen at 510-981-7409 orashen@cityofberkeley.info. Read more about the grant in past Berkeleyside coverage. See the city’s project website here

Neighbors to hold Adeline Corridor meeting Saturday (05.08.15)
After outcry, library board votes to change library name to include civil-rights leader (05.08.15)
LeConte residents express concern about Berkeley Honda’s move to site of Any Mountain (04.02.15)
Diversity in Berkeley raised as concern at Adeline session as planning process takes off (02.09.15)
Public meeting on Adeline Corridor on Saturday (01.30.15)
$750K grant may bring big changes to South Berkeley (08.19.14)
Berkeley kicks off Adeline Corridor improvements push (03.27.14)
Sacramento Street clean-up efforts continue in Berkeley (03.24.14)
Berkeley’s Sacramento Street corridor on the rise (11.01.13)
South Berkeley neighbors ask city for help to improve (04.19.13)
New street banners give Berkeley neighborhoods identity (03.04.13)
With open doors, Firehouse Bazaar creates community (08.23.11)

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Natalie Orenstein reports on housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. Natalie was a Berkeleyside staff reporter from early 2017 to May 2020. She had previously contributed to the site since 2012,...